A great Blu-ray release makes this interesting time travel thriller worth investigating
Predestination Film Review
The Ethan Hawke-led Predestination offers up intelligent closed-loop time travel twists and thrills, but also blurs the line between convoluted contrivances and intricate ingenuity.Hawke’s currently on a bit of a roll. He's a woefully underrated actor who at least will always have mentor-director Richard Linklater to fall back on. He made his breakthrough in Dead Poets’ Society, is best remembered for the excellent little sci-fi gem, Gattaca, and the gritty cop drama Training Day, and has somehow managed to eschew Hollywood mainstream for basically his entire career. He’s got half a dozen films planned for release in 2015, including a Western revenge thriller opposite John Travolta, a psychological thriller with Emma Watson, and a crime thriller with Ed Harris, although the most anticipated of his upcoming slate has to be his reunion with Gattaca director Andrew Niccol for the military drone thriller, Good Kill. And the strange thing is? He’s the star of all of them.Kicking off this impressive run of films is Predestination, which reunites him with the Spierig Brothers, who previously directed him in the engaging vampire thriller Daybreakers. A complex sci-fi thriller that juggles back and forth in time in a bid to keep you guessing, Predestination unravels a tale about a dedicated time travel cop (temporal agent) who takes increasingly perilous jumps through time in a desperate bid to catch a demented bomber before he completes his final masterpiece and kills tens of thousands of people. Before the time jumping completely fries his brain, though, it’s part of his job to recruit somebody to follow in his footsteps; a disillusioned wannabe astronaut who now writes gossip columns for a living. Could this be the protégé that he’s looking for?
Blu-ray Picture QualityThe UK Region B Blu-ray of Predestination is presented in a reformatted 1.78:1 aspect, as opposed to the film's original 2.40:1 framing. Whether or not this was done with the permission of the filmmakers is unknown but frankly it's just unacceptable. The US and Nordic releases retain the film's theatrical aspect ratio and that's the version we are reviewing here. Predestination was shot digitally using Arri Alexa cameras and the transfer perfectly captures the film's original photography, with an impressive picture that is pleasingly free of any annoying artefacts. There were no signs of banding or other compression artefacts and the image was free of any aliasing or sharpening.
Despite its modest budget, Predestination is an attractive-looking film.
The film was shot on a moderately low budget but despite this the picture is excellent, with a nicely composed and attractive-looking image. The level of clarity in the image is superb, with everything from skin pores to hair and clothing to props all displaying plenty of detail. To a certain extent this clarity betrays the film's digital capture, as does the absence of film grain, but the detail definitely gives the film a genuine sense of depth in certain shots. Due to the time travelling narrative the film covers different time periods and the bold colour scheme really captures that, although flesh tones remain natural. The black levels are also excellent and the disc retains plenty of shadow detail in the many night scenes.
Blu-ray Sound QualityThe Blu-ray disc uses a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and it's just as impressive as the picture. Although the film doesn't have that many traditional action sequences, the soundtrack itself remains highly active with plenty of sounds being sent to the rear channels. This results in a very dynamic sound field with sounds and effects being actively steered around the room and the rear channels helping to create an immersive experience. The sounds are also tonally matched, helping to keep the sound field balanced as noises and effects move around you and draw you into the story.
The quality of the audio lives up to that of the picture with a dynamic soundtrack.
When the film requires it, the gunshots are loud and impactful, with an effective sense of ambience thanks to echoes. The low frequencies are used to underpin the rest of the audio, so where it's explosions, engines or the time travel effect, the bass will kick in where necessary. The score is nicely rendered across the front soundstage and is occasionally mixed into the rears, whilst the dialogue is anchored to the centre speaker and always remains clear. This is a great all-round soundtrack that serves the story but will also give your sound system a good workout.
Blu-ray ExtrasThe UK Blu-ray release of Predestination is a single-disc affair that comes in a standard plastic keep case. Aside from the features already mentioned, the UK disc only includes a pair of trailers. However, thanks to Sony there is a decent selection of extras on the US and Nordic releases, with a 75-minute 'making-of' documentary being the most interesting.
Bloopers (01:37) - Presented in high definition we get a standard gag-reel with the cast and crew making mistakes and goofing around.
A Journey Through Time (04:33) - A short featurette where the cast and crew discuss what they think the film is about, their co-stars performances and the stylistic choices.
All You Zombies: Bringing Predestination to Life (1:16:30) - Taking it's name from the Robert Heinlein short story on which the film is based, this excellent 'making of' documentary covers every aspect of Predestination's production. The documentary is composed of eleven segments that cover everything from the origins of the story, the casting, the actual filming, stunts, makeup, editing, and the eventual release. There's loads of interviews and on-set footage, making it a must-see for fans of the film.
Predestination Blu-ray VerdictOn balance, Predestination is a largely successful effort at intelligent, fairly minimalist sci-fi, which takes a genuinely thoughtful approach to time-travel without resorting to over-the-head Primer tactics or paint-by-numbers exposition. It’s refreshing to be drawn into what is, essentially, such a dialogue-driven affair – with, as stated, Hawke front and centre to help ease you through the complex conundrums. Whether or not you understand what you see may not end up being quite as important as whether or not it sits well with you, but any movie which makes you think as much as Predestination does, makes it a cut above the rest.
An interesting film, great picture and sound, and a decent of extras make this Blu-ray worth getting.
Predestination was a lower budget independent production that has different distributors in different regions so, depending on which version you buy, the Blu-ray release of Predestination is either excellent or a disgrace. The UK Region B release from Signature Entertainment has been reformatted from 2.40:1 to 1.78:1, which is just unacceptable these days. It's also missing all the great extras found on the US Region A release from Sony. Luckily there's a Nordic Region B release of the Sony disc which can be bought directly from Amazon. The only way to get distributors to provide a decent Blu-ray release is to vote with you wallets and buy the superior version, which in this case is either the US or Nordic releases.
Thankfully the Sony release of Predestination serves the film well, replicating the original digital photography and original aspect ratio without introducing artefacts. The level of detail is superb, the colour palette remains bold whilst retaining natural skin tones and the blacks are deep and well defined. The audio is equally impressive with a lively and well-designed sound mix that keeps the dialogue clear, whilst immersing you sounds that draw you into the narrative. A decent set of extras including a 76-minute 'making' of documentary round off an excellent overall package and we've included a link below for the Nordic release.
You can buy Predestination on Blu-ray here
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.